Happiness, that’s what stays in the memory after lunch at Stagier Bar, a small tapas restaurant in Santa Catalina by chef Joel Baeza and partner Andrea Sertzen. Lots of happiness. With just seven tables (seating a maximum of eighteen guests), this restaurant – more like a cosy dwelling – instantly induces calm. Honey-coloured chairs, rustic woodwork and sprigs of rosemary take us to a place of familiarity and home. Although a world map at the back, etched in thick lines, signals that home might exist in other places. The couple, originally from South America, agrees. Before moving to Mallorca, Chilean Joel spent time in Madrid where he worked at the Michelin star restaurant Zaranda. However, after non-stop travelling and working at twenty-two restaurants in total, Joel decided to open his own place in Santa Catalina.
Don’t think that a reservation here is difficult just because of the small number of tables. Whispers of “gorgeous food” have spread since its opening in 2018 and now much buzz circles Joel’s tapas masterpieces. Therefore, the bar is set high before we start, but along comes his sourdough bread with smoked butter and the magic unfolds. The butter melts on the tongue, leaving wisps of charcoal in rolls of cream. Next, the black truffle egg arrives in a nest of straw – a neat colour play against the turquoise plate. The potato foam inside is light and airy, leaving room for the nuttiness to come through. Joel has mastered an admirable skill in his work where taste and presentation are on equal par. What you see is as delicious as it tastes because of its simplicity – precisely what everyone loves about tapas.
We try ten plates in total, some tapas made to share – the creamy confit artichokes are a delight – and others made as individual portions. The cuisine is Mediterranean but there are some welcome South American flavours that shine through. For example, the tuna toast turns up like a taco with dollops of avocado and a thick spread of chipotle sauce. Shavings of radish on top give a peppery kick, but its Mexican chilli mayo is hot enough for us. We pick it up with our hands and get stuck right in – is there any other way to enjoy a taco?
We cool off with a frozen juice to clean the palate before a double dose of dessert arrives. The first one is a baked cheesecake which – in generous size – would rival any New York competitor. The second is a fruity flan – a beautiful whip of coconut, passion fruit and mint. We’re surprised to hear no milk is included given its creamy gloss, so once again, we praise the skill involved. Chef Joel should prepare himself. We don’t think the phone will stop ringing for quite some time. We leave full, and very happy.
Why eat here?
The 8-course dinner menu at 40 euros is amazing value given what Joel and Andrea offer at their very intimate place.